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Rangers see relationship between Russian line-mates blossom in day 3 of camp

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Rangers have Panarin working with new linemates
New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the third period in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
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It’s been a bumpy road for the Rangers and 2018 first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov.

After not making New York’s major league club last season, Kravtsov returned to Russia even though the coaching staff and front office had asked him to report to Hartford in the AHL. 

That was a whole year ago. Now the Rangers have Kravtsov back in the U.S. and competing for a starting job. While lines this early in training camp are never final, Kravtsov has worked with Artemi Panarin and free agent acquisition Vincent Trocheck through the first three days. 

The potential of Kravtsov matched with the playmaking abilities of someone like Panarin make for an interesting combination should the lines hold for opening day. 

After each practice, it’s clear that the two Russian-born players are looking to make each other better. 

“I think we mostly talk about minor corrections and suggestions during the game. Our shift definitely plays very well.” Panarin said after Saturday’s practice through his interpreter. “Our focus is just trying to maintain that level that we reached before and move on from it.”

Panarin was fourth in the NHL last year in assists. His style of play matches up well with a newcomer like Trocheck and a high-potential player like Kravtsov. 

“I try to learn a lot from the guys I play with,” Kravtsov said through the team’s interpreter. “It’s easier for me to play with them than for them to play with me.”

The Rangers don’t have to worry about Artemi Panarin on, or off the ice. Kravtsov on the other hand chose to come to camp early partly due to play being over in Russia early and wanting to “redeem” himself to the Rangers and their fanbase. 

“I’ve always felt great here. The guys respect me, accepted and I know that everything depends on what I do in my work. I don’t really worry about tomorrow, I just focus on today.” Kravtsov added. “I definitely made a lot of noise recently but it’s more about putting the work. Everyone in the locker room understands what’s going on. I just want to do what everyone else is doing, put in the work, get on the team, and do my part.”

As a three-time All-Star and consistently at the top of the league leaderboards in assists, Panarin understands how two potential new linemates can work well with him even if it means keeping young players with top potential like Kravtsov in check.

“They (Trocheck and Kravtsov) are obviously good players. Just hoping Vitali doesn’t get too accustomed and stays in his battle mode. We definitely have had a few very good practices recently but we’ll see of that works out.”

When asked if he sees himself as a mentor to Kravtsov, Panarin joked saying that it was for selfish reasons that he spoke to the young forward. “I’m thinking about myself more. I’m just trying to get him to hold the puck better and be a better teammate. He’s getting better every day so playing with him makes me more tired.”

The Rangers haven’t made a final decision on who will end up playing together. While Trocheck and Panarin seemingly are expected to work together, their linemate is still up in the air. 

As Kravtsov continues to prove himself within the organization, it’s clear that the Rangers are willing to give him a shot with one of the most important lines on the team. With this new chance, it looks like the 22-year-old is ready for his shot. 

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